Forgotten Trails: Cave stories continue

Published 12:02 pm Wednesday, March 28, 2007

By Staff
Apparently one good yarn deserves another. The Brewton Standard received a letter in 1950 from T.E. Watson of Brewton regarding his experiences. This article ran in the June 22, 1950 issue of the paper.
It was back in the summer of 1900. I had just closed a school at May Creek in this county and had gone back to my home at Burnt Corn, Monroe County, to spend the summer. Then I got a letter from Mr. W.S. Neal, County Supervisor of Education, Brewton, asking me to go over to Cleveland, a small school a few miles from Brooklyn and teach a 3-months summer term before the fall school opened. I arrived at Cleveland and opened school on July 4, as there was not a day to be lost. This brings us to our story. And it was while teaching this school that I learned of the various rumors connected with the Brooklyn Cave.
I boarded at the home of a Mr. Craker - Tom, I think it was. At any rate, two of his children, Coley and Sarah, attended my school, and it was in company with Coley-who was then a boy of about 15 or 16 years years - that I went to explore this cave. We carried with us no tomahawks as we were not expecting to encounter bandits, Indians nor bear; but we did carry with us a kerosene lantern, some matches and two spools of Coats' coarse sewing thread. Back in those days flashlights were unknown to us.
We found the cave and entered. On the inside it was then practically as described now by Mr. Franklin, but there is one fact that made a very forcible impression on me that is not mentioned by Mr. Franklin. As we approached the entrance, leatherwinged bats began to emerge in great swarms, and this was kept up for some considerable time. And while we had to give them passage room, they kept coming as we entered. It made the impression on my mind that perhaps all the bats in seven counties had come together in one mass assembly. And while we had no means of making anything like accurate estimate, we just put it down for a few million and let it go at that.
The carvings on the walls were there then - perhaps not so many as now. Then the lighted lantern, in darkness thick enough to eat, we made our way in this natural funnel-like crevice, or fissure, in the rock's formation, exercising much caution. For some time we walked upright. Then we had to stoop, then crawl; and when the floor and ceiling took a notion to get closer together, we just had to get down on our stomachs and slide. Then we came to a halt. There was no longer space enough between floor and ceiling for the lantern to set upright. As Coley was a husky boy - growing faster in the middle than he did on each end - he had to stop at a point about 50 feet short of the spot I reached. Then with my stomach on the floor and the ceiling tickling my back, it was difficult for me to reverse and head towards the entrance. The fissure was wide enough but had lost its height.
It was then that I found use for the two spools of thread I had carried. Making one end of thread fast to a rock, I played it out on the return trip - tying the second spool to the thread on the first (50 years ago cotton wasn't worth much, and then, too, they made the spools much larger than they do now so that they would hold a nickel's worth of thread strong enough to pull a large bream out of the water). Maybe that thread had rotted before you got there, Mr. Franklin, or had it?
As to where this opening in the bowels of the earth may lead there can only be the merest conjecture, as no man will ever or can possibly pass beyond the spot we reached unless he carries with him an auger with which to bore, and that is out. And as for an underground river, we saw no evidence of that. And there were no blind fish swimming around in holes of water nor were there any holes of water large enough to sustain them had they been there.
Before closing, I want to call attention to another cave a few miles from the one described above. At another time we visited it but found nothing of interest, save that the ceiling of this one was covered with millions of stalactites or icicle shape rock formations hanging from the roof - many of them large ones and a very pretty sight to behold. One had to be careful in going about in this one or he would likely get lost and meet himself coming back trying to find his way out.
As a postscript to this letter, I want to say: Later in the summer of the same year, in the company of a friend, I went to visit a cave of a similar nature in Monroe County. The walls were of rock formation, but no carvings were on them This cave was a fissure in the rock formation and for a part of the distance, had running water, but the floor was very ragged and the water finally poured over a precipice beyond which we could not go.
In conclusion I will say that I am now approaching my 74th landmark and have decided to leave such pastimes as exploring caves to our younger friends, Edley Franklin and John Scott. The pleasure is all yours, boys.”

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